Paul’s Oscar Speech

Part IX of “Romans: The Road Less Traveled”

Romans 16

OSCAR STATUESThe Academy Awards are tonight, and while I haven’t seen many of the movies (ok, really none of them), it’s always an interesting exercise in watching human behavior. I especially enjoy watching the speeches, where excited people try to thank everyone they know while the show producers want to get them off the stage as soon as possible. The length that they shoot for is about 45 seconds before the orchestra starts playing to signal that the show must go on, but the prestige of a particular award category actually determines how much leeway an award winner gets. The speech for Best Makeup, for example, will get a quicker hook than that of the Best Director.

Actually, according to a recent study, Oscar speeches are getting longer. From 1960 to 1969, for example, the average speech length was 44 seconds for men and 39 seconds for women. Now the speeches have stretched to an average of 1 minute, 57 seconds for men and 1 minute, 56 seconds for women (note here that the men talk longer, which goes against all the conventional wisdom that men are less verbal than women!).

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Singing Till Jesus Comes

Part VIII of “Romans: The Road Less Traveled

Romans 13:1-15:6

Senate PrayerOne of the great privileges I’ve had for the last couple of years is to do the opening prayer for the Colorado State Senate several times per legislative session. I put on a suit, drive up to the Capitol building, climb up the marble stairs to the Senate chamber, greet the President of the Senate, and then offer an appropriate non-sectarian prayer for the assembled body of legislators who are often tense and ready for another day of political warfare. When I drove up to the Capitol last Tuesday for my turn to pray, I was told that some of the legislators almost came to blows over arguments about elections. In a place that looks so historic and refined, there is often great tension.

As I was going through the metal detector in the Capitol basement on Tuesday, I didn’t hear the usual echoing sounds of hard heeled shoes on the hard marble floor. Instead, the first thing I heard was…singing. A rich, beautiful choral seemed to fill the whole building. When I climbed up the two flights of  stairs under the dome, I saw where the musi was coming from—the Colorado State University Choir was singing from a balcony in the Capitol Dome, which made the music resonate everywhere. I pulled out my iPod and recorded a little bit of the song…

Did you catch the lyrics? “I’m gonna sing ‘til the Spirit moves in my heart, I’m gonna sing ‘til the Spirit moves in my heart, I’m gonna sing ‘til Jesus comes.” The phrase “Oh, my Jesus” is sung underneath it all. There, in the middle of the State Capitol, in the halls of power, with people in suits hurrying in all different directions, was a hymn, a revival. It seemed out of place—a state university choir in the state capitol singing about Jesus. But then again, I couldn’t think of a better place for this song to be sung.

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An Embodied Gospel

Part VII of “Romans: The Road Less Traveled”

Romans 12:1-21 

SkinA writer named Shelley Jackson is publishing a short story, but it’s not one you’ll find in a magazine or literary collection. To read it, you’ll have to track down 2,095 people around the world and get them all together.

Jackson’s story is entitled “Skin” and it’s being written – tattooed, actually – on body parts of more than 2,000 volunteers, each of whom has just one word of the story on their bodies. A guy named Rob, for example, has the single lowercase word “back” tattooed on his left wrist. His lit professor, who told him about the project, has the word “pen” tattooed on himself, followed by a question mark.

Jackson calls her project a “mortal work of art” and was the first to get her tattoo, the story’s title, on the underside of her wrist. Interestingly, she had no trouble getting enough people to volunteer to get marked with the story – people from dozens of countries, from Japan to Jordan have taken on words and more are still signing on. The stipulations are that you have to have the word tattooed in black ink in classic book font and large enough to be seen with the naked eye. You don’t get to choose the word that’s tattooed on you—it’s whatever the author assigns.

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The Jesus Map

Part VI of “Romans: The Road Less Traveled.”

Romans 9:1-11:36

silk mapAs someone who is trained as a historian, one of the things I love to look at is old maps. I talked about this a couple of sermon series ago when I said while GPS is great technology, there’s really no substitute for the context of a map. When you don’t have one, that’s when you realize that you really need it.

One of the coolest types of maps in history were the silk maps that were carried by pilots and airborne troops in World War II. Developed by the British and adopted by the Americans and other Allied forces, these maps were made primarily to aid in escape and evasion when a pilot or trooper found himself behind enemy lines. Unlike a paper map, which was subject to tearing or water damage, and made a lot of noise when unfolding it, the flexible, waterproof, silent nature of the map made it easy to use and easy to hide if one got captured. You could stick in the hollow sole of a boot, or stuff it in a cigarette case. Many pilots had the maps sewn into the lining of their flight jackets.

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The Road to Victory

Part V of the series “Romans: The Road Less Traveled.”

Romans 7:1-8:39

super bowlWell, after two weeks of hype, the Big Game is finally here. It’s especially interesting this year, of course, because the Broncos are in it and most us of will be tuned in this afternoon to watch the game, or at least to watch the commercials.

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to play in a game like that—millions and millions of people watching. Eternal glory and immortality are on the line for the winners, while the losers will forever wonder about what could have been. In a game like this, every play is magnified and analyzed incessantly; replayed endlessly on highlight reels on ESPN and the NFL Network. And when the video plays 20 years from now, you want to be the guy who made the game breaking play, not the guy who made the big mistake. One momentary lapse in focus can make all the difference.

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